Gustavo Barahona-López

Chevron Check Ghazal

Hydrocarbon cloud fires itself into a new existence, a type of life
Brought about by its own destruction. All my early life

I grew in the shadow of smokestacks, smog misting thirsty earth.
The running juices of lemons and tomatoes made a worthy life.

My father applied his calloused hands to cultivate our backyard,
Proudly served bowls of sliced peaches. His love language. His life

Was cut short. He, like my uncles, like myself, is a statistic.
Elevated cancer and asthma rates the reward for taking life-

Giving breath. How much death is ingested in the name of survival?
Like crude oil, the years continue to leak from my shortened life.

One day my mother boiled chayotes she’d grown. I devoured their
Spiny hearts, an incantation to rid me of the poison threatening my life.

Today I tender the corrosion nesting in my lungs. I cash a $300 check
From the latest Chevron settlement and consider the value of this life.



Surviving the Desert
The remains of at least 2,832 migrants have been found in southern Arizona since 2001, according to the Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants. Nearly 40 percent (1,089) have never been identified.
                                        -Daniel Gonzalez, USA Today Network

Anger blossoms in the Sonoran Desert
burrowing like a scorpion awaiting the
crepuscular. Here the shadows plant
desert marigolds in shallow graves,
exhale dry sweat as divots collect on the
fracture. How could anything survive?
Gaunt prickly pear cactus struggles
haggardly to keep itself from slouching.
Inside, a cactus wren hides from the
jaws of heat waves searing green flesh.
Kilometers of road stretch like a tongue,
like veins to nowhere. Even the paths are thirsty.
Moisture, that molecular god, shines upon
nocturnal prey. Temporary respite, the dark
offers the fiction of the opaque. Return to the
plaza with its festive colors like the
quetzal in flight, belly emblazoned with
rivers of fire. Stars guide towards possibility,
skeletal and otherwise. The bones anchor
time like an unwilling beast chained to the
umbra of an eclipsing moon. Hear the
voices chant their cerulean song:
What of tenderness? Call it dried
xerophyte. Call it drowning fish. Let it
yearn until its desperation reaches its
zenith then watch it plunge into the sand.



Gustavo Barahona-López is a writer and educator from Richmond, California. In his writing, Barahona-López draws from his experience growing up as the son of Mexican immigrants. His micro-chapbook Where Will the Children Play? was part of the Ghost City Press 2020 Summer Series. He was a finalist for the 2021 Quarterly West poetry prize and his chapbook Loss and Other Rivers That Devour was published by Nomadic Press in February 2022. A member of the Writer's Grotto and a VONA alum, Barahona-López's work can be found or is forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, Puerto del Sol, The Acentos Review, Apogee Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, among other publications.